Whenever learning a new physical discipline you’ll have the experience of trying out a new aspirational move and thinking… this seems utterly impossible.
One way to approach this new challenge is to keep trying the beast move over and over again, hoping that eventually it gets easier. This may work! But it is also miserably frustrating and has a high potential for burnout or injury.
As an alternative attack, try modifying your exercises to make them easier so that you can manage them and control them. A strategic approach with the right combination of achievable exercises, gradually increasing in difficulty over time, can win you that monster move without the misery, just a little smarts and patience.
How do you make your difficult move easier? Here are three strategies, just add creativity!
To make it easier to understand I’m going to use the example of the standing front split. I wanted to pick a move that I’m not good at and don’t practice very often and you can watch the video at the end to see what the struggle bus looks like!
1. Break it into pieces
Every pose, ever move is a combination of elements. What are those different elements and how can you practice them separately? Break your monster move down into 3-5 exercises that are challenging but doable and practice those.
Example: Standing front split could be broken down into standing on one leg with excellent balance, deep hamstring flexibility, and an opening of the standing leg hip (there are other ways to break it down this is just what worked for me).
Check out the video to see what exercises you could try out to work these components.
2. Change the Relationship with Gravity
Gravity, ever-present, can be either friend or foe. The most challenging moves work against gravity, so how can you change the position around to make gravity a little more helpful? This can allow you to work on form, alignment, strength, and depth with control in a position that feels more manageable and accessible.
Example: Part of what makes standing splits so hard is that gravity is pulling that leg down to the ground. Practicing the standing split while laying on your back enables you to check your hip position, build active flexibility, straighten out the standing leg, and stretch the hamstring with a floatier-feeling leg.
The video shows you what it looks like when you flip that standing split on its back.
3. Slow it Down
This is quite possibly the least fun part of this breakdown process, but it is extremely helpful in perfecting your transitions in and out of a position. Too often we focus on the end product, just long enough to snap a photo, but you don’t really have a pose until you can get in and out of it with grace and control.
Slowly moving in and out of the position, even if you are 10 miles away from your end goal position, builds strength, awareness, and control. It’s also good for flexing those patience and humility muscles, which are no one’s favorite muscles to train.
Example: Transition to standing split could be just lifting the leg up in front, holding it for a breath, and lowering it back down without buckling in the standing leg or losing your straight spine. Does it look good? No! Does it feel good? Heck no! Does it make you stronger and more balanced? Yes! Watch the video to see the humility.
Make Up Your Own!
What are your goals? What is your dream pose or move? Break it down, flip it up, slow it down, and—most importantly—give it time. Impatience invariably causes us to skip important steps in our training that will catch up to us eventually and we are in this for the long term, right?